In case it’s not clear, Scorn is not a first-person shooter. Or at least, that’s not where the heart of it lies.
In the numerous gameplay snippets that have been released in the past, you might have seen its protagonist use an array of strange weaponry to subdue even weirder lifeforms, but it’s safe to say that it’s not the focus here. Instead, Scorn actually aims to be more cerebral. The developers intend to put you on edge, with a setting that’s equal amounts gross, dark and yet enticing to explore. And instead of shooting your way your answers, you’re going to have to engage your grey matter. You’re going to have to solve puzzles.
Going hands-on with a small portion of Scorn, then, it’s perhaps a little disappointing that one of its first puzzles left us very cold. Awakening in an unknown location that wouldn’t look amiss in an Alien film, we began exploring. There was little we could do until we stuck our arm into a mysterious device which implanted it with some kind of alien technology, but with our unfortunate avatar now changed – upgraded, even – we were happy to find that we could now tentatively finger a range of devices to control them.
Still, most of our interactions were fruitless. There was something missing. Many contraptions had clear uses, seemingly surgical, but there was no-one to perform them on. And so we went on the hunt. Ultimately, our attention came to focus on a raised platform in the centre of the location we were trapped in. Two workable consoles were available on top of it – both of which controlled arms, each with their own range of motion. We just knew we had to use the right-hand console to move something into place for the other to grab, but we didn’t know what.
At this point, we should mention we were playing a mere two-metres away on a 65″ OLED screen. Yet, all of the weird capsules we could manipulate with the hand connected to the right-hand console didn’t look that dissimilar to each other. It was only after losing the will to live and watching a walkthrough video that came with preview code that the solution was made clear. Even then, we still had to look closely to identify the capsule in question. Needless to say, we hope it’s made much more obvious in the final build, otherwise it will be source of similar frustration.
After that conundrum was solved, however, it was plain sailing from there. The capsule contained a friend for us to play with – let’s call him Cedric – and I would like to say we took him on a merry train ride. Instead, we pushed him to his doom. First we seemingly mangled his head with one machine, leading him to make uncomfortable, agonising sounds as we pushed him onto the next we’d like to try. That one scooped his fleshy body out of the shell that contained him, dumping his corpse into a hole on the floor. Still, we got what we needed: his dismembered arm which we then stuck into another orifice to implant with technology like our very own.
As the demo continued, we found ourselves in a new area where we finally got our hands on a tool. You know how in Alien the Xenomorph has a strange inner mouth that protrudes and penetrates anything it meets? This tool was essentially that. We had to insert it into numerous terminals to release phallic-like structures, which were then collected and taken away to another location. To get there, we then had to use our new tool to destroy drone-like creatures that spewed gas into our path.
A further bit of puzzling later and we’d placed the phallic obelisks we’d freed into a fleshy mound, before getting covered with a sticky white substance. Yes, Scorn is a bit of a gross game really. Obviously inspired by the works of H.R. Giger, it combines human biology with machines, leading to an experience that feels unsettling and also strangely sexual at times. And there’s one thing for sure, it’s interesting.
Never before have we played a game quite like Scorn. While its first puzzle didn’t make a great impression, it soon won us around. Those expecting fast-paced, first-person shooter thrills won’t find much, if anything, here to excite them. But those prepared to soak in the unnatural atmosphere while overcoming challenges that may repulse at times have a lot to look forward.
Scorn launches 21st October on Xbox Series X/S and PC.